Arusha: in detail
Although not usually a destination in itself, Arusha is the most popular and convenient springboard from which to explore Tanzania's iconic northern safari parks.
In Arusha practically everything centers on the safari industry. Over the last 50 years, it has grown from Tanzania's ninth largest town to its second city, with a population of more than 400,000.
Apart from shopping for curios, there are not many things in Arusha to occupy a visitor's time. That said, less than an hour from town is the most accessible and arguably most underrated of northern Tanzania's national parks – Arusha National Park – which is described in more detail below.
Arusha National ParkArusha National Park is often overlooked by travellers rushing to the more famous sights of the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti. However, with a little time, Arusha National Park offers some lovely walking in the foothills of Mount Meru and canoeing on the Momela Lakes, plus gentle game drives. If you have the time it is well worth a day or two.
There are a range of activities to do in Arusha National Park. This includes walking safaris which are always accompanied by a ranger and last for a maximum of four hours, during which you would stop for a break at one of the park's lovely picnic sites. You can also explore the far reaches of the park by vehicle, taking in some of the lovely views and keeping an eye out for wildlife. Another great activity here and one not found in other safari parks in Tanzania, is a canoeing safari which allows you to explore the Momela Lakes.
Flora & Fauna of Arusha National ParkWithin the park there are three broad areas to be found: Ngurdoto Crater (surrounded by forest), the Momela Lakes (alkaline) and Mount Meru (lush forest and bare rock). These are all at varying altitudes and as a result have very different vegetation – it is all this that helps to make this such a diverse park to visit.
AnimalsDespite its small size, Arusha National Park has a rich variety of wildlife. Within the park's three vegetation zones, many different kinds of animals can be found. Near water, reedbuck and waterbuck can be spotted, while shy bushbuck and duiker keep to the forested parts of the park. The Mount Meru eco-system is especially diverse, and home to some of the more elusive larger mammals, such as leopard and hyena.
BirdsAlmost 400 species of birds have been recorded in the park. Some of them are migratory and only present between October and April, others are permanent residents. Especially the Momela lakes are a great place for bird watching, which host a large concentration of waterbirds, including flamingos. There is also a variety of raptors, which hide in the forested areas of Mount Meru.
VegetationThe park is only 137km², but includes a diverse range of habitats. There are three distinct areas to be found: Ngurdoto Crater, the Momella Lakes and the rugged Mount Meru. Correlated to the altitude and geology of Arusha National Park you can find mountain rainforests, open savannah, alkaline lakes and even a volcanic crater. On clear days you get great views of Mount Meru, which is Africa's fifth highest mountain and within the parks boundary. You can also see across to Kilimanjaro - which is 50km away.
Arusha's AirportsThere are two airports near Arusha: Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) is 40km east of town, off the main highway between Arusha and the mountain. KIA is used for larger international flights from Kenya, Nairobi and Europe, as well as regional safari connections in Tanzania. The much smaller Arusha Airport, on the town's western fringes, is a minor hub for Tanzanian regional flights.
Where to stay in Arusha
Our suggestions for places to stay in Arusha
Rivertrees Country Inn
Set within lush grounds, the peaceful and relaxing Rivertrees lies between Arusha and Kilimanjaro Airport: ideal at the beginning or end of a safari.
Arusha Coffee Lodge
Arusha Coffee Lodge is a neat, comfortable lodge, right on the highway, close to Arusha Airport. It is a convenient stop for a night.
Onsea House is a small, family-run guesthouse on the outskirts of Arusha. The rooms are quite simple, but service and food here are good.
Machweo is a nine-room lodge on the outskirts of Arusha. The rooms are large and stylish, and the service and food here are very good.
Kia Lodge is a simple, country-club-style lodge situated close to the buildings and runway of Kilimanjaro International Airport.
Airport Planet Lodge
Airport Planet Lodge is a new hotel located close to Kilimanjaro Airport, making it ideal for a short stay before or after your international flight.
Katambuga House is a smart hotel on the western side of Arusha, an hour’s drive from Kilimanjaro Airport and 10 minutes from Arusha Airport.
Hatari Lodge is designed around a bright, fun 1960s retro theme and is a relatively high-quality base to explore Arusha National Park.
Mount Meru Game Lodge
Mount Meru Game Lodge, near Arusha, is a good spot to stay en route to northern Tanzania's most famous safari areas.
Legendary Lodge is boutique luxury lodge, perfect for an indulgent overnight stay at the start or end of your safari.
Siringit Kilimanjaro Golf Safari Retreat is a six-bedroom villa offering a luxury stay in complete privacy on a championship golf course.
Twiga is a Tudor-style lodge with welcoming owners, country-style gardens and a viewing platform looking onto Arusha National Park.
Arusha Serena Hotel
The Serena Arusha Hotel is a comfortable hotel close to Lake Duluti. It makes a good stopover before or after a safari in northern Tanzania.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings in Arusha
This is their success for sightings in Arusha.
Click on a species for more detail. How we work this out.